The Phoenix Zine

Stress Management: The Healing Power of Music

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Dick Clark once said, “Music is the soundtrack of your life.”

If I had to choose songs to make a soundtrack for my life thus far, I’d begin with “When You Wish Upon a Star” from the movie Pinocchio. When I was little, sick, and in the hospital, my parents used to play a musical Snow White figurine of that song for me. I don’t remember it myself, but Snow White still sits on my shelf, chipped, cracked and glued, but able to play music if I want her to.

Next would be “Here Comes Christmas” sung by Alvin & the Chipmunks, a favourite group of my childhood thanks to my grandparents and much to the annoyance of my parents. Then, to commemorate long car rides filled with music my parents liked and I loathed, would be “Lemon Tree” by Peter, Paul, and Mary and “Hills of Morning” by Bruce Cockburn.

Of course, I’d have to include some music from the churches I’ve gone to; the Divine Service Setting Two Hymn of Thanksgiving from the Lutheran Hymnal, and my favourite hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth.” “O Holy Night,” my favourite Christmas carol sung during candlelit Christmas Eve church services would also be on the soundtrack.

Public school can be whittled down to four songs. “Seventy Six Trombones” from The Music Man to remind me of my music teacher’s love of show tunes and a classmate who was appearing in the play at a local theatre. “When at Night I Go to Sleep” from the opera Hansel and Gretel from the time I joined the school choir under the delusion I was a good singer. “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry as a nod to my shop teacher who sang the whole song a cappella to the class at our urging. And lastly, “I Have a Dream,” the musical version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech and the song we sang at my grade eight graduation.

With high school dances, plays and teen life in general, limiting the number of songs is difficult. For memories of dances, I’d go with “Together Again” by Janet Jackson, “Everybody” by Backstreet Boys, and most of Much Music Dance Mix ’95. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” by N’Sync makes the list because it reminds me of when I was the costume designer for “God’s Favorites” by Neil Simon.

I’d also include songs I associate with guys I’ve dated or had a crush on. “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo was the song my date and I danced to on my first ever date. “If You’re Not the One” by Daniel Bedingfield is the song that reminds me of my first ex-boyfriend.

Other songs making the cut would be “Hero” by Mariah Carrey, the song that helped me come to terms with what having a transplant actually meant. Kevin Hearn & Thinbuckle’s whole H-Wing CD helped me deal with frustration and depression after I wound up in the hospital with a blood clot, especially the song “Mouth of a Shadow”. Now that I’m single again I love singing “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks, “You Oughta Know” and “Spineless” by Alanis Morissette to reassert my female power.

Every time I hear one of the songs above, I associate it with a certain time of my life, a movie I liked, or a guy. It reminds me of how I once felt, like looking at old photographs or a past journal.

For me, music is not only the soundtrack of my life, it’s a wonderful stress reliever. When my head clutters up and I’m really stressed, singing loudly to music I like mellows me and helps me sort things out. Playing music gives me the strength and courage to keep on fighting when I need it. I use it to perk me up when I’m down, distract me when I have to do something I don’t like and calm me when I’m nervous.

No matter what emotion I’m feeling or mood I’m in, there’s an artist or a song I want to listen to. When I’m angry, I listen to Alanis Morissette (Jagged Little Pill album). If I’m in a contemplative mood, it’s John Mayer. When I want to have fun, I like the Barenaked Ladies. When I’m excited, it’s “Perfect Day” by Hoku. When I’m feeling down about my illness, Maria Callas singing “La Momma Morta” really gets me. And when I’m unsure about being myself, I love “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeGraw.

Music gives me a safe place to acknowledge and release my feelings. And in the spirit of promoting the management of stress through music, I’d like to announce The Phoenix Zine’s The Healing Power of Music contest. Tell us what song or artist you listen to when you’re feeling a certain way and why on our contest web page.

Entry deadline is May 30, 2008 at 11:45 pm PST. All eligible entries will be entered in a draw for a $25 gift certificate for Puretracks.ca. The winner will be announced in The Phoenix Zine’s June 6, 2008 post and the prize will be emailed to them. Feel free to enter more than once, and good luck!

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